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[Eg0_107] C. Reider : Distressing




Eg0cide welcomes well known sound activist C. Reider (founder of Vuzh Music netlabel and experimental band Drone Forest), who sent us a very interesting "process-music" album based on the use of 4 sounds he found irritating. The result of these sound studies will make you discover the hidden musical potential of what most of us usually hate to hear.


Notes

This album requires some explanation. "Distressing" is a collection of 'sound studies' as Eg0cide label administrator Serge-Antoine would put it... although, to me, 'sound studies' describes everything I've ever done in music. I would call the sounds presented here 'process-music' because the method of arriving at the sounds is systematic and understanding the method is necessary for a full appreciation of the work.

The idea for "Distressing" came about from a discussion I was having with an internet acquaintance of mine named Sarinne Fox, who uses the twitter handle @NoiseHelp. She and I were talking about annoying sounds, and my position was that there are no objectively irritating sounds, "noise" is nothing more than a personal judgment about sound. I think there could be something beautiful about any sound.

I did not always hold this opinion, and our conversation led me to think about sounds that have irritated me in the past. When I arrived at a few of them, I decided to make a project out of them, to explore the sounds. The four sounds I decided to focus on were 60 cycle mains hum, white noise, dial tone and the piezo beeping of my alarm clock. I listened to recordings of these sounds for a while, and I think perhaps the only bothersome thing about them to me was the initial shock of going from silence to an un-ignorable sound. Once that shock had passed, there was plenty to notice... not so much in the sounds themselves, but in the dynamic act of perception.

In thinking about these sounds, and the thematic element of 'things that annoy', I decided to apply a technique that annoys me. The use of longform sound stretching, is in (very) common practice in contemporary ambient music, popularized by the computer program Paul's Extreme Sound Stretch, aka PaulStretch. I think this tool can be very useful, but in my view right now it's being over-used in an unimaginative way. People seem to simply pile up a minute of sounds, hit the button and Voila! An hour of instant ambient smush. Maybe that'd be interesting if it weren't so ubiquitous.

I don't actually have the PaulStretch program, but I had previously used the time stretch algorithm in my go-to audio editor Amadeus Pro in another project I did recently that poked fun at the PaulStretch craze. In a collection called "Squeezed", I found twenty-four longform ambient netlabel releases from various artists that allowed for derivative works in their licensing. I then used the time stretching function in Amadeus Pro to render each of them to under a minute in duration. Twenty four hours became twenty four minutes.

For "Distressing" I began with a one minute segment of each base sound and stretched it to an hour in length. Then I took that file and squeezed it back down to a minute in length. Then I repeated that process a few more times. With each stretching and squeezing cycle, the original sound came apart a little more, became porous and lost luster - became distressed. I compare it to the fatigue that occurs when you bend a piece of metal back and forth.

What you hear in "Distressing" is a small section of the four sounds - mains hum, white noise, dial tone & alarm beep - followed by an excerpt from the first hour long stretch which segues into an excerpt from the second stretch (where the 1st file was squeezed back to a minute, then stretched back out again), and then an excerpt from the third (where the 2nd file was squeezed and re-stretched). As the track progresses, you hear the original sound decay and change, only to receive a shock when the next sound begins unaffected.

The variations in the stretched parts arise from the process. Since the stretching algorithm in my audio editor does not use the spectral smoothing that PaulStretch does, the results are glitchy and not smooth and ambient. As the track plays you can hear the effect the process has on the sound as the more heavily processed iterations fade in.

For those interested, a more detailed description of each step is attached below.

C. Reider
January 12, 2014



Method:

One 60 second source file is selected.
The speed is altered to 50% of its original speed, resulting in a file twice its original length.
This same step is done five more times, resulting in a file of a little over an hour in length.
This file is saved as iteration 1.
The speed of this file is altered to 200% of its original speed, resulting in a file half its original length.
That same step is done five more times, resulting in a file of about a minute in length.
That file is altered to 50% of its original speed, resulting in a file twice its original length.
That step is repeated five more times, resulting in a file that's a little over an hour in length.
This file is saved as iteration 2
The speed of this file is altered to 200% of its original speed, resulting in a file half its original length.
That same step is done five more times, resulting in a file of about a minute in length.
That file is altered to 50% of its original speed, resulting in a file twice its original length.
That step is repeated five more times, resulting in a file that's a little over an hour in length.
This file is saved as iteration 3

Quick math reveals that from start to finish, each of the 4 sounds was processed 30 times to result in the final version, therefore 120 distinct stretching/squeezing operations were done to make this recording.

A multitrack program is used to compile the 4 resulting tracks. The original sound plays for a few seconds, then iteration one fades in and plays for 3 or 4 minutes, then iteration 2 plays for a few minutes, and finally iteration 3 for a few minutes. Each iteration fades out as the following one fades in.

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